The beauty of the U.S. Virgin Island's isn't the only thing that draws vacationers back time after time. Many people come each year specifically to attend an event or festival. Even if that isn't why you've chosen to visit the islands, you may want to find out if there will be any celebrations going on during your stay.
Attending an event or festival is a great way to experience local culture, by sampling regional fare, viewing hand made crafts, and listening to Caribbean music. In the Virgin Islands, there are three categories of events and festivals that are particularly common: cultural celebrations, music festivals, and sporting events.
- Mardi Croix Parade: An annual street parade, which takes place in March, features marching bands and Mocko Jumbies (mythical African characters on stilts).
- Carnival: One of the Caribbeans largest and most well known celebrations is Carnival. In St. Thomas it occurs sometime between April and May, and on St. John festivities happen in June or July. Featured are street parades, live music, dancing, various competitions, and lots of family fun.
- Crucian Christmas Carnival: Throughout the month of December and into January, St. Croix celebrates Christmas Carnival-style with a series of events that are fun for the whole family. These include parades, the Miss St. Croix competition, boat races, concerts, a culture night, Jouvert, a food and arts festival, and fireworks. The Carnival has been held for over 60 years and each has a different theme; for example, in 2014 they celebrated "A Majestic Scene for Crucian Carnival 2014-2015."
- Arts Alive Concerts: Concerts held throughout the year at Tillett Gardens. Performances are usually musical ensembles and classical performers.
- St. John Blues Festival: Blues festival in March featuring regional artists at Coral Bay Ball Field. Tickets range from $25 to $45(USD).
- March Music Series: The March Music Series is all about promoting arts in the schools. Students take on a different musical theme each year, studying music and attending lectures leading up to several public performances on St. Croix, St. John, and St. Thomas.
- Love City Country Music Festival: This first annual festival is scheduled for May, 2015 on St. John.
- St. Croix International Regatta: Series of yacht races and parties held in the middle of February.
- St. Thomas International Regatta: Yacht racers from around the world participate in the annual race hosted by the St. Thomas Yacht Club. The event takes place in March.
- Beach to Beach Power Swim: In May, swimmers get the chance to participate in a race between beaches set in the protected waters of the Virgin Islands National Park around St. John. Participants can swim solo or as part of a three-person relay team and have three course options to choose from ranging from one to three and a half miles.
- Bastille Day Kingfish Tournament: A charity fishing event that also includes cash and prizes for participants, this tournament turns into a beach party with live music after the fishing has taken place.
- St. Thomas Open: Golfing event held at the Mahogany Run Golf Course in August.
- Love City Triathalon: Held in August, the Love City Triatholon has three different categories for atheletes to participate in. The first is the basic triathalon which includes a half mile swim, 14 mile bike ride, and 4.15 mile run. The second is the SUP Triathalon, in which a stand up paddle boarding takes the place of the bike ride. Finally, the Aquathon allows competitors to participate solely in the swim and run portions.
Other Events and Festivals
Valentine Jump Up: The Valentines street festival featuring loud street music, arts and crafts booths, food, dancing, and fun.
...Food and wine festival...
- Chili Cook-Off: Each March the United Way of St. Croix hosts a chili cook-off to benefit charity. Visitors from the surrounding islands attend the event to sample more than 10 types of chili, and enjoy live music.
- St. Patrick's Day Celebration: March in the annual parade around Red Hook with music at Molly Molones and traditional irish pub fare served all day.
- Taste of St. Croix: Food and wine festival held at the Divi Carina Bay Resort in April.
- Arts Alive Springtime Arts and Crafts Festival: This arts and crafts festival focuses on screen printing, is held at Tillett Gardens in the end of April.
- Reef Jam: A May festival typically held in Frederiksted on St. Croix to raise money and awareness in support of conservation of the coral reef system. There are numerous events throughout the day including live music and tons of good food to eat.
- Arts Alive Summer Arts and Crafts Festival: The summer sister of the Arts Alive Springtime Arts and Crafts Festival, features arts, crafts, live entertainment, and food.
- Lifestyle Festival: Fun events such as concerts and beach parties mix with important lectures and booths on health and safety. This takes place in July.
- Arts Alive November Arts, Crafts, and Music Festival: The fall version of the Arts Alive Springtime Arts and Crafts Festival, has live music as an added bonus.
- Reef Festival: The Coral World Ocean Park opens its doors once a year, offering free admission to the public in order to promote marine education. Interactive activities get adults and children involved in such fun as sandcastle building, swimming, and of course, relating to sea creatures. The event takes place in November.
British Virgin Islands
- Emancipation Festival: Each August the British Virgin Islands celebrate its emancipation from slavery, which occurred in 1834. Festivities include boat races, live music, and the annual freedom march.
- BVI Music Festival: The BVI Music Festival takes place on Tortola at Cane Garden Bay Beach. The event lasts for three days, and features about five local and international Caribbean artists each night. Tickets cost $20(USD), or $50(USD) to purchase a three day pass.
- Sweethearts of the Caribbean and Classic Yacht Regatta: This annual February yacht race is based out of the West End Yacht Club on Tortola. An after party is hosted by the Jolly Roger Restaurant.
- Dark and Stormy Regatta: This yacht race is hosted by the Jolly Roger Restaurant on Tortola, and by the Neptune's Trasure on Anegada each March.
- Spanish Town Fisherman's Jamboree/Annual Wahoo Fishing Tournament: The Spanish Town Fisherman's Jamboree/Annual Wahoo Fishing Tournament is the British Virgin Island's top fishing event. Held at the end of March or beginning of April each year, this event also features great food and live music.
- BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival: On top of yacht races that run from Nanny Cay to the Bitter End Yacht Club, there are also fashion shows, live music, and street parties during the BVI Spring Regatta and Sailing Festival. This event takes place in March and April.
- Foxy's Wooden Boat Regatta: The Wooden boat race takes place on Jost Van Dyke each May.
- Highland Spring HIHO: Windsurfers, SUP surfers, and WETS trimaran sailors race between the British Virgin Islands each July.
Other Events and Festivals
- Karl Merklein Art Show: Each January Karl Merklein's original art, plus the artwork of other local artists, is honored with an annual show case put on by the Sunny Caribbee Art Gallery on Tortola.
- Caribbean Arts and Crafts Festival: Handmade crafts are on display and for sale each March in Trellis Bay, Virgin Gorda. A fashion show of locally made items is a well-attended part of the event.
- Virgin Gorda Easter Festival: Easter weekend on Virgin Gorda is filled with activities that includle a calypso monarch competition parade, nightly entertainment, and queen show.
- Bust Your Kite: Another Easter weekend event, though this one takes place on Tortola. Delta Petroleum hosts a kite flying event, where each child is given a kite as a gift, and allowed to spend the day flying it.
- Restaurant Week: If you're visiting the islands in November, you're in for a treat. This week long event includes the Taste of BVI on both Tortola and Virgin Gorda that brings chefs from the island together in one venue to share their best dishes; the Visiting Cook Off Chef which pits local chefs against a celebrity chef to find out who will win the title; and the final event, the Barefoot Gourmet Soirée which is an elegant five-course dinner that benefits students looking for a career in the tourism industry.
- Anegada Lobster Festival: In December of 2013, Anegada added a new event to the line up; the Anegada Lobster Festival. For between $10 and $12(USD) a plate, guests can enjoy local lobster specialties created by the chefs of local restaurants while they enjoy live entertainment. It takes place over two glorious lobster-filled days and involves a culinary tour of the island by safari, scooter, or rental car and brings guests to sample three different plates at each restaurant that is participating that year.
This is only a preview of all of the fun that the Virgin Islands offer. Check with your hotel's concierge to determine which events may occur during your stay, and plan to check one (or more!) out.